Educators to attend PIEIRS Summer Institute at MSU
Prompted by a significant need in Montana and North Dakota for trained personnel to work with infants, toddlers and young children with low-incidence disabilities and their families, the Preparing Interdisciplinary Early Interventionists for Rural States project was established in 2004. Educators from a variety of disciplines serving children with disabilities will be on Minot State Universityís campus from July 20 to 22 for the PIEIRS Summer Institute.
This year, the Summer Institute is a collaborative effort between the PIEIRS project, the MSU Education of the Deaf program and the North Dakota School for the Deaf Outreach Department; it is co-directed by Holly Pederson, assistant professor of special education, and Alan Ekblad, associate professor of special education.
"As a result of this collaboration, students and professionals from North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana will learn from networking with each other and from participating in group projects and discussions," Ekblad said. "Overall, it provides a sense of connectedness and common purpose for all participants working in a variety of rural settings."
The theme of the 2009 annual PIEIRS Summer Institute is "Auditory Learning the K.I.D.S. Way."
The University of Montana and the Rural Institute on the UM campus, Missoula, and Minot State University and the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities on the MSU campus partnered to secure a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to create the PIEIRS project. PIEIRS has received a one-year extension and will be completed in December of 2009.
Students enrolled in the program, known as trainees, are graduate students from health, education and human services disciplines. Graduates of the program will be qualified in Montana and North Dakota to be employed by Part C service provider agencies, as well as other health, education and human service agencies/programs that serve young children with disabilities and their families.
Trainees typically take one or two courses per semester and are required to attend two Summer Institutes. All courses to secure a masterís degree are offered online. In most cases, it takes three years for a trainee to complete the cycle of courses and complete the Master of Science in special education, concentration in early childhood special education.
Students who receive scholarships from PIEIRS grant funds are obligated upon graduation to either work in a job that serves infants, toddlers, children or youth with disabilities for a specific period of time or to repay the federal government.
Originally envisioned to fill a need in Montana and North Dakota, PIEIRS has had a greater impact. There is a national need for trained early intervention personnel, and this project has developed a rural distance training model that can be replicated in other states.